Mental health

Freelancing when the world is falling apart – the toll on our mental health

This post is based on a piece I wrote for Freelance Corner as part of its work with Mind to provide resources relevant to challenges faced during the coronavirus crisis. You can find the full piece here.

When it comes to freelancing, people often talk about rollercoasters. I don’t even like rollercoasters in real life, but I think the comparison is probably fairly accurate. Freelancing can bring highs and lows, often with just minutes in between, and all the  euphoria that comes with the high points followed by the nausea as it all drops away beneath you. It’s like that all the time, but I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that the coronavirus crisis seems to have emphasised this rollercoaster ride even more.

Since this all started, I’ve been through plenty of emotions from fear to anxiety, sadness, and anger as well as positivity, optimism and a fair bit of adrenaline. Most people will agree that one day can be great with things feeling more than manageable, followed by a crushing down that sees you unable to open your computer, let alone get anything done. There’s the financial worries of not having an income, the loss of clients, and the worry that the world might be changing forever.

I also feel there’s a particular difficulty for freelancers who are used to hustling for work yet suddenly told to stay away. No networking, no meetings, no touting for business. Just enforced ‘rest’, especially when many clients put things on hold – even if they later restarted them.

Of course, everyone deals with every situation differently, and there is definitely no one-size-fits-all when it comes to looking after your mental health. But I wanted to share a few things that have helped me in the hope that maybe, they might help others too.

Explore opportunities

As tempting as it is to throw in the towel, chasing more work and looking for new opportunities – even if they’re not what I’d usually do – can feel positive and proactive. I’m not saying everyone has to do this, but it helped me. You may be different, but for some people the chase can feel good. If that’s you, then don’t feel you can’t keep doing it.

Speak to other freelancers

If anyone’s is going to understand what you’re going through, it’s other freelancers. Everyone has it hard in situations like this, but there are unique elements of freelancing that might be easier to chat to with someone in the same position. Whether it’s a virtual coffee, a brainstorming session, or even a Twitter chat, it just might help.

Exercise and fresh air

This has been absolutely key for me. Endorphins really are wonderful things, and from workouts to long walks, exercise and fresh air really have kept me sane. They clear the head, brush away the negativity, and might give you that deep breath you need for when you get back to the computer and plan the next step.

Cut yourself some slack

If it was ever important to go easy on yourself, it’s times like this. If you lose a client, chances are it couldn’t have been helped. If you have to seek financial support, then you are not alone. From giving yourself time away from the computer to accepting that some things really are out of your control, cutting yourself a bit of slack isn’t just allowed, it’s vital.